Farewell, Florencee and Virginia

Farewell, Florencee and Virginia November 7, 2018

 

I apologize for being so quiet lately.

A few days after I wrote about my Great Aunt Florencee, she died in a car accident. I continued to write through that news, my mourning, and helping Mom through her mourning, even though I was distracted.

Six weeks after Florencee’s death, my Aunt Virginia died suddenly from a heart attack. Maybe two unexpected, shocking deaths so close together has discouraged me from sitting down at the computer and knocking out highly opinionated, religious and political blog posts. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I can’t work through my own grief, help my Mom through hers, and have energy left over to talk to you.

Clearly, I can’t nail any reason I’ve not written, other than I’m weary and a weary writer is rarely a good writer.

Florencee, Virginia, and my Mom were all very close in age. Growing up, they hung together, played together, made lots of trouble together. Mom claims Florencee and Virginia’s tendency was often to leave her behind, and she’s upset with them because even in their deaths, they left her behind, haha (sick humor). I told Mom to cheer up. In Heaven, Florencee gets the 1st place ribbon, Virginia the 2nd place ribbon, and Mom can have the 3rd place ribbon. Just like old times. Some day, it’ll be great.

Virginia was the oldest, then Florencee, then Mom. Florencee and Mom were a year apart, almost to the day. If my math is right, Virginia was roughly eight months older than Florencee. Florencee was also the youngest of nine children. My Grandma was the oldest of those children. And so, when Great Grandma had Florencee and then shortly after lost her husband to an unexpected death (am I sensing a theme here?), my Grandma ended up caring for Florencee a lot, as Great Grandma was emotionally fragile and in need of finding a way to support herself and nine children. Well, less than nine, since Grandma and a one or two of her siblings were married with their own kids by then.

All that to say that Florencee, Virginia, and Mom became the female version of the Three Musketeers rather quickly. Mom tells the story of Florencee and Virginia loading up their baby cousins in their little doll buggies and heading down the road like a couple of mommy bosses, while Aunt Sylvia chased them down screaming “Hey! Bring back my babies!”

Where was Mom?

Trailing behind, of course.

Left to catch up with her stubby little legs.

The nine children are all gone now. And with Virginia’s death, the next generation has begun to dwindle, not waiting even two months after the last generation expired. It’s depressing. A chapter of my life is closing, and once the generation before me is gone, of course it’ll be my generation’s turn to expire. Maybe sooner, if we can’t stop this trend of expiring unexpectedly at either young or fairly young ages.

Florencee’s husband, in 1978 died tragically and unexpectedly as well. Unexpected deaths truly do run in our family, for some reason. Four out of the nine children that Great Grandma gave birth to died either unexpectedly or in accidents of some sort. What is wrong with us that we can’t just slowly waste away like the majority of humanity?

Anyway, it’s pretty dark in my head right now. Death comes unexpectedly sometimes, and I’m weary of being related to so many who go out that way. I don’t think it’s even real to me yet that Virginia is gone. She’s one of those people that has always been there. My entire life. Her kids were my closest cousins growing up. We had more fun than human beings should be allowed to have. Virginia gave me Jackie, who broke the trend of me being the only female cousin in the vicinity and thereby having no other option than to play tackle football and participate in other distinctly male shenanigans. My pigtails were imaginary horse reins for longer than I’m willing to write about.

Virginia was always kind to me, except for the seven million times her camera flash blinded me. I’d love to see her picture stash, which I’m positive would qualify her as Guinness Book of World Records winner for Lady With The Most Photographs. Her laugh was hysterically funny. Even if you didn’t find what she was laughing about funny, you’d laugh anyway, just because her laugh made you laugh. She was always worried about dirt. If you visited, you’d get apologized to relentlessly throughout your visit “for the mess,” even though her house was the cleanest you’d been in since Nam. It was certainly cleaner than what you lived in every day. And if she cooked something for a family get together, she’d break out the apologies once again, because she didn’t think she cooked it long enough, or it wasn’t crisp enough, and she maybe forgot the salt because the phone rang while she was making it, and, and, and ….

But whatever the dish, we loved it because it tasted like something Martha Stewart would whip up. So while the apologies flew, we simply nodded and helped ourselves.

She did have a lead foot when she was younger. Then, during one of the races she and my Uncle participated in, she crashed and banged herself up, which (as I learned at the funeral, because I wasn’t born at the time of this story) made it difficult for her to carry her firstborn son in her arms. After that, she determined family was more important than racing and promptly went from having a lead foot to having a feather foot and would drive at least fifteen to twenty miles under the speed limit, while also avoiding any busy roads, bumpy roads, curvy roads – any roads she deemed dangerous. Which, come to think of it was all roads. She thought she was being safe. Her passengers thought she was just a weeeeee bit paranoid. By the end of the ride, they wanted to rip their hair out. And Virginia’s hair out.

Virginia struggled in life. I never knew the cause of a lot of her suffering, but I saw it in her eyes, her emotions, and the way she acted out those emotions sometimes. But by God’s grace and strength, she managed to find ways to love in the midst of her struggles. And I loved her for that. I’ll always love her for that. Her kindness, her laugh, and her giving spirit will live on in my heart always. The way she lived her last three to five years were especially inspiring. She calmed, emotionally. She apologized to people who deserved on apology. She tried harder than she’d ever tried in some difficult relationships. And most importantly, she fell in love like never before – with Jesus. When she went, I know she was immediately ushered into the arms of a faithful Savior who saw her through until the end. He chose to take her without a lot of physical suffering, and for that, I’m grateful. But for those of us left behind, it hurts to have her taken from us so suddenly.

Two days before she died, she texted me. She inquired about Mom, so I told her that she doesn’t get out of the house much at all anymore because her legs don’t work well and she can neither sit or stand for long periods of time. She replied that she was sorry to hear that, and that “all she does these days is run around like crazy.”

I thought “What else is new? You’ve done that since I’ve known you, Aunt Ginny.” (She didn’t like being called Ginny, but she made an exception where I was concerned.)

I hope she’s still running around like crazy, loving people like she did so well here. If I was God, I’d put her with the babies and young children. She adored all of them, no matter what family they came from, and it would seem appropriate that she be surrounded by littles throughout eternity. I feel fortunate to be one of those littles.

I’m happy for her. Sad for me. And that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while. I honestly feel like going out, getting a new pet, and naming her Virginia. Or maybe one of my kids could have another baby girl and assign her Virginia’s namesake. Better yet, let’s have two more girls and name them Florencee and Virginia. Twins, maybe?

Too much?

Fine.

I miss you, Virginia. May you and Florencee, who I know you loved dearly and missed fiercely, receive Heavenly buggies and forever stroll down Apostle Paul Lane with all the beautiful babies. It’s amazing you two are together now. Perhaps your grief would have been lighter here on earth had you known you’d join Florencee just six weeks after she died.

Life is strange. Death can be even stranger. Praise be to God who knows the whys behind every life and death event, and has a plan far greater than we can even imagine. One day, we’ll all understand.

Until then, pass the Kleenex.

 

**Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash


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